With a pair of assists over the weekend, Johnny Gaudreau became the tenth player in Flames franchise history to record 500 points with the organization. It was a cool moment for Johnny even as his future as a pending unrestricted free agent remains uncertain. While there is significant debate on where Calgary and Gaudreau should go beyond this season, his most recent milestone should add some important perspective to the conversation.
Getting to 500
By hitting 500 in his 524th game, Gaudreau became the sixth-fastest player in franchise history to reach the mark. It’s important to note the five players ahead of Gaudreau all got to 500 during the high-flying 1980s when offence was much easier to come by.
For balance, it’s also relevant to point out Iginla played almost half of his career in the “dead puck” era of the late 1990s and early 2000s when scoring happened at a painfully low rate. Era-to-era comparisons are difficult, but it’s fair to say Gaudreau is one of the most productive players to ever wear a Flames jersey.
Of course, Calgary is just one franchise. To add more context, let’s compare Gaudreau to his peers. The 2011 fourth round pick is one of five players from his draft class to have hit 500 points and, to date, sits fifth in overall scoring from that year. That said, Gaudreau is actually the second-fastest player in his draft class to reach the milestone.
As it stands, only Kucherov has been more productive than Gaudreau from his draft year, which is good company to keep. So is the group of active players that Gaudreau finds himself a part of in career points-per-game (accurate through Oct. 26, 2021).
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For the detractors out there, I’m well aware points aren’t the only metric we use to determine how good a player is. But, seeing as how there are only seven active career point-per-game players in the NHL, seeing Gaudreau just barely on the outside is significant. We’re talking about one of the league’s most productive players since debuting in 2014.
It’s been my belief for some time the Flames should do everything in their power to extend Gaudreau long-term. In an unbalanced landscape and Calgary is a small, Canadian market with middling results over the last decade. Retaining a player of Gaudreau’s stature ahead of unrestricted free agency would be a big time win for the organization.
Digging into Gaudreau’s numbers drives it home even further. We’re talking about one of the most dangerous and prolific players in franchise history AND of his peer group. That’s beyond difficult to simply replace.
What are the chances the Flames would get a commensurate player back in a trade between now and the deadline? Knowing how most trades for star players go, I’d peg them as low. The probability is even lower Calgary would be able to fill Gaudreau’s shoes if they let him walk, even with $6.75 million of cap space opened up.
I’m not suggesting Gaudreau is a perfect player. The defensive side of his game will likely never be strong and he has struggled in the postseason, for instance. Those are relevant points for a contract negotiation, but for me, they don’t outweigh what the Flames would lose without Gaudreau on the roster.
Gaudreau is a pending UFA. Both he and general manager Brad Treliving have publicly expressed interest in reaching an agreement. And yet, here we are with November approaching and nothing is done. I don’t know how this is going to end. What I am sure of, though, is the Flames would be doing themselves a disservice by not doing everything it takes (within reason) to keep Gaudreau in the fold.
After that, let the chips fall where they may.